Welcome to the first edition of Shay’s Shouts – an article that will be released monthly detailing my views on Maidenhead United FC as an exiled fan.
This edition is almost a bumper edition as the structure of the National League means that 15% of our games are played in August alone, so we’ve a lot to look over!
Just before the start of the season, I asked on a Facebook fan page on where everyone thought we would finish in our second campaign at this level. Expecting to be in a minority, I boldly predicted that we had a half decent chance of finishing in the Top 7, otherwise known as the playoff positions. Instead, I was happy to see that a fair number of fellow fans agreed, with many more certainly agreeing on a top half finish.
Confidence was certainly high heading into the first game of the season at home to Gateshead; fresh faces in the form of Ayo Obileye and Max Worsfold would debut, with high expectations on the shoulders of Ryan Bird and Josh Kelly with a combined 60+ goals last season alone!
Gateshead (H) – 1-3
A disappointing start to say the least, particularly as Gateshead had seen a huge squad turnover in the summer as well as a switch from full to part-time football – only one of the starting XI for the visitors had played a role in last season’s infamous 7-1 defeat. The Magpies had their sharp spells, with impressive performances from Harold Odametey and the debuting Worsfold, but a disappointing return to York Road after a 4-month break.
Solihull Moors (A) – 1-0
There wasn’t much time for reflection as the Magpies made the journey up the M40 to Solihull. On @MUFCYorkRoad Twitter duty, I would be heading up with Will P in the car for our only trip to the Midlands this season.
It could accurately be described as ‘one of those,’ with little luck for the Magpies throughout the full 90 minutes. It could easily have been 2-0 at half time to the hosts had the penalty kick struck the other side of the post. Kelly and Adrian ‘Yaya’ Clifton looked like a strong partnership when they both came on with 15 minutes to go, with another Man of the Match performance of Odametey who came close to equalising twice in the second half. The Magpies’ faithful felt particularly hard done by the referee’s decisions, with a chorus of ‘Hallelujah’ after a free kick was awarded to United. It would prove to be too little too late, with a second defeat in as many games leaving the 30 or so travelling supporters ever so slightly nervous.
Dagenham & Redbridge (A) - 2-2
Last season’s fixture at this ground was the traditional Fancy Dress match up signifying the last away game (on a Saturday) of the season. No Ali G costume for me this year, as I would be spending the week in Tenerife, and so I would be left in the blue as to how we played during the match.
According to the reports and judging by the Twitter coverage, we played our best game of the season up until that point. Discipline would be our ultimate enemy, as Alan Massey would receive a second yellow and make the long walk down the tunnel. Taking the lead twice was a promising sign, and for sure those around the hotel pool certainly heard about the result with my celebrations at a late second goal for the Magpies.
Wrexham (H) – 0-2
It was a second August Tuesday night in a row that we’d host the League’s Welsh representatives, and for a second year running the Magpies would succumb to a defeat to the Dragons. Wrexham have traditionally started strong in August, so it was no surprise to see us struggle against potential title contenders (and the current league leaders at the time of writing). Christian Smith reportedly filled in well to replace the suspended skipper, at a time when defensive options were limited due to the departure of Maximillian Kilman as well as an injury suffered by the solid Rene Steer. The result, however, did leave us at the bottom of the National League for the first time.
Hartlepool (A) – 1-2
I’d be relying on Hartlepool’s own Jeff Stelling to provide me with updates for this fixture, as I’d only just arrived back home from holiday. Unfortunately, his delight was my misery, as two goals would come for the hosts, with Massey scoring a consolation goal to wrap up a reverse result of this fixture from Christmas last year.
Maidstone (H) - 3-2
Our first ever win at this level was in front of the BT Sports cameras, and our first of this season would follow the same course. Ryan Upward would be the first scorer of this five-goal thriller, with a tidy finish two minutes into the game; certainly, the Magpies have looked stronger in the middle of the pitch with the Upward and Comley duo that we’ve seen develop over the past few seasons.
Maidstone would grab one on the stroke of half time, a frustrating goal to concede as the momentum would be with the visitors for the start of the second half. The Stones capitalised on this and converted a penalty just before the hour mark. Once again, defensive discipline had let the Magpies down.
The fighting spirit that has been embezzled into the club over the past few seasons re-emerged in the final third of the game. The on-form Clifton equalised with a quarter of an hour still to play, and a last-minute Steer cross would see the ball deflected into the net to seal a Maidenhead United victory on live TV, our first of the season. Get in!
Braintree (A) – 0-2
Updated 20:31 - 13 Sep 2018 by Nathan Bingham
Our final game of the month would be on the road to Braintree, a club familiar to our own manager and many of our players who joined us from 2015. The short notice had an effect on some of our starting XI, with Worsfold, Bird and Steer all ruled out for the Bank Holiday fixture.
They say that a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous lead in football, but the Magpies held out well after Clifton and Obileye’s first half goals. There was a late chance for new signing James Akintunde, but a questionable playing surface justified his shot going well over the bar. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that many a Maidenhead fan would have felt much happier at the end of the month than at the start of it.
So, what have we learned this month? Well, after initial teething problems our squad seems to be coping well to work with each other and play some good football. It’s also a pleasure to see so many of our squad finding the net, with five members of our squad netting themselves a goal (six if you include Steer’s claim on the third goal against Maidstone). Furthermore, there’s been impressive performances from across the pitch, with special mentions to Odametey and Clifton who’ve bagged three MOTM awards each! Our new signings also appear to have adapted well to life at Maidenhead United.
However, despite our good finish to the month I still feel as if there is room for improvement. Defensive discipline appears to have faltered in recent games, which could prove to be costly if it’s not addressed. Moreover, a signing or two more may help with a lack of squad depth, particularly when it comes to the winter months where injuries are more prone to happen as the pitches start to wear and tear. We’ve some tough fixtures coming up, with two relegated sides from League 2 as well as bookies’ favourites Salford in September, so positivity must remain high in the hope we can create a few upsets.
That’s all for the month of August, so be sure to check your programme and the club website for the next edition of Shay’s Shouts.
Come on you Magpies!